In its last five games, the Yale baseball team’s offense managed just nine runs and posted a pedestrian 0.189 batting average. But in their game against Wesleyan on Wednesday, the Bulldogs scored seven times in the first inning alone.
The Elis went on to reach base 31 times in 52 trips to the plate, routing the Cardinals (16-–8, 3–3 NESCAC) 15–2 in the Bulldogs’ final nonconference matchup of the season. The team’s 15 runs scored across five different innings represent its highest run total this year, as well as its largest margin of victory. With the emphatic win, Yale (13–22–1, 7–5 Ivy) distanced itself from a three-loss weekend against Harvard, and now enters its final eight games of the season against Ancient Eight rivals Dartmouth and Brown on a high note.
“This win gives us great momentum going into the weekend,” captain and designated hitter Chris Moates ’16 said. “We had a little bit of a dry spell hitting this past weekend, and it is really encouraging to see the way the team drove the ball all over the ballpark today.”
Despite having scored just nine first-inning runs in its 2016 campaign thus far, the Bulldogs wasted no time before punishing the Cardinals’ pitching staff, with six of Yale’s first eight batters reaching base. The Bulldogs already led 3–0 in the game before shortstop Tom O’Neill ’16 blasted a three-RBI double to left-center field, knocking Wesleyan starting pitcher Wilson Flower out of the game after just 0.2 innings pitched. O’Neill, who reached base in three of his five at-bats on Wednesday with four runs batted in, scored later in the inning on the first of five Wesleyan errors.
Yale’s arms had little trouble either against the Cardinals, who lead the NESCAC conference with a 0.355 batting average this season. Benny Wanger ’19 began the game strongly for the Bulldogs in his fifth career start, inducing swinging strikeouts for all three outs of the first inning. Wanger continued to befuddle the Wesleyan lineup, pitching ahead in the count in nearly every at-bat and allowing just two runners to reach scoring position. The freshman surrendered just three hits and struck out a career-high six batters in four shutout innings.
“I definitely felt more comfortable out there today and I think a big part of that started with Andrew Herrera ’17 behind the plate,” said Wanger. “I also had better command of my fastball and off-speed pitches today and just focused on throwing to [Herrera’s] glove.”
Four Yale relievers, Tyler Duncan ’18, Kumar Nambiar ’19, Mikey Sliepka ’18 and Sam Boies ’19 provided robust support out of the pen following Wanger’s strong outing, allowing a combined five hits and two unearned runs in the remaining five frames. Duncan earned the win for the Bulldogs, facing just eight batters in the scoreless fifth and sixth innings.
Meanwhile at the plate, the Yale lineup continued its offensive clinic, working pitch-counts and capitalizing on its patience in the batter’s box. The Bulldogs, who drew nine walks on the day, followed a one-run fourth inning by batting through the lineup in the sixth, punctuated by a two-out RBI single by Moates. After nearly notching his first home run of the season when he blasted a towering fly ball just foul beyond the left field fence in his previous at-bat, the captain blooped a full-count offering into left to score third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 from second base.
Center fielder Tim Degraw ’19 also contributed mightily at the plate on Wednesday. The freshman reached base in all six of his plate appearances, adding a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice to his two singles and a lined-shot double down the right field line.
But out of the Bulldogs’ 14 hits against the Cardinals, the most impressive came off the bat of right fielder Harrison White ’17 in the sixth inning. Facing Wesleyan junior reliever Asher Young with Yale catcher Alex Boos ’18 on second base, White smacked a two-run homer into right field, driving in his 17th and 18th runs of the season, second-most on the team.
“I really wasn’t trying to do a whole lot. I didn’t think too much, just tried to put a good swing on the ball and put as much barrel on it as possible,” White said. “I got a hanging slider, recognized it and just stayed back well enough to drive the ball.”
Boies, the fifth pitcher of the day for the Elis, finished the three-plus hours contest with a resilient final frame. Staring down Wesleyan’s cleanup hitter, sophomore Matt Jeye, after loading the bases with two outs, Boies induced a weak ground ball to second basemen Derek Brown ’17 for the final out of the game.
With their nonconference competition now complete, the Bulldogs will head north to face Dartmouth in a pivotal four-game series this weekend. Owning a one-game lead over the Big Green for the top spot in the Ivy League’s Red Rolfe Division, the weekend will go a long way in determining Yale’s fate as it searches for its first division title since 1995.
“We are just looking to take each game as they come and not think about the greater importance of this weekend,” right fielder Nate Adams ’16 said. “It’s hard to be successful if you make the game too big, so we are just going to focus on controlling what we can control, playing within ourselves and bringing a little joy to the diamond. If we play our game, the results should follow.”
Each of Yale’s two doubleheaders this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, versus the Big Green will begin at 12 p.m.